Overnight Technology

Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers ramp up Silicon Valley antitrust probe | Treasury sanctions North Korean cyber groups | Thiel to host Kobach fundraiser

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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

FINDING THE PAPER TRAIL: House lawmakers are escalating their antitrust investigation of Silicon Valley, issuing expansive requests for internal documents to four of the nation's largest technology companies.

Bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee sent letters to Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google on Friday seeking internal communications and documents regarding the use of their market dominance.

"Today's document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs the subcommittee and is leading the antitrust investigation, said in a statement.

"We expect stakeholders to use this opportunity to provide information to the Committee to ensure that the Internet is an engine for opportunity for everyone, not just a select few gatekeepers."

Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the full Judiciary Committee, said "this information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets."

The panel is requesting communications among each company's executives, records that were handed over in past antitrust investigation and internal documents detailing their organizational structures. The lawmakers gave each company a deadline of Oct. 14.

The requests come as regulators are ratcheting up their scrutiny of the tech giants' market power.

In the past week, Google disclosed that it received a separate investigative records request from the Department of Justice just days before a coalition of 50 attorneys general from across the U.S. launched their own antitrust investigation into the internet search giant.

And Facebook revealed over the summer that it is the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Asked for comment by The Hill, a spokeswoman for Google pointed to a blog post published last week by Kent Walker, the company's chief legal officer, promising to cooperate with the flurry of antitrust inquiries.

Read more here.

 

CYBER SANCTIONS: The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions on Friday against three North Korean cyber groups for targeting critical infrastructure.

OFAC identified the Lazarus Group and two of its subsidiaries, Bluenoroff and Andariel, as "agencies, instrumentalities, or controlled entities of the Government of North Korea," noting that all three groups are controlled by RGB, North Korea's main intelligence bureau.

As a result of the sanctions, the three groups have been blocked from accessing any property within the United States, and U.S. citizens and residents are banned from doing any type of business with the groups.

"Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyber attacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs," Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement. "We will continue to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea and work with the international community to improve cybersecurity of financial networks."

According to OFAC, the Lazarus Group has been active in cyberattacks around the world since being created by the North Korean government in 2007. It was responsible for the cyberattack on Sony Pictures in 2014 stemming from the release of "The Interview," a film that mocked the North Korean government.

The Lazarus Group was also involved in the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware virus in late 2017, which impacted at least 150 countries and encrypted or shut down about 300,000 computers.

This became one of the largest ransomware attacks in history after the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) was attacked, impacting about 8 percent of general medical practices in the U.K., and costing the NHS an estimated $112 million to recover.

Read more here.

 

A NEW THIEL: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter and venture capitalist Peter Thiel will reportedly host a fundraiser for Kansas Senate candidate Kris Kobach, who is running in the Republican primary.

The Sept. 18 event will take place in New York City, according to an invitation obtained by Politico.

Kobach is an immigration hard-liner who lost to a Democrat in the red state's 2018 gubernatorial race. He faces significant opposition from other Republicans in his bid to replace Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who is retiring. He is also a staunch supporter of President Trump.

Coulter also takes a hard-line immigration stance but has sparred with the president, criticizing him for not yet building his promised wall along the nation's southern border.

The night Kobach lost his 2018 race, Coulter tweeted "Kansas is dead to me."

Read more here.

 

TWITTER READS BETWEEN THE LINES: Twitter took down a tweet from a Republican state lawmaker in Texas who wrote that his "AR is ready" for former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), the Democratic presidential candidate who at Thursday night's debate said, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15s."

Twitter told The Hill the tweet from Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain violated its rules against making violent threats and that it had removed the tweet on Friday morning.

"The Tweet was in violation of the Twitter Rules, which prohibit violent threats," a Twitter spokesperson said.

After the debate, Cain tweeted, "My AR is ready for you Robert Francis," referring to O'Rourke's birth name.

Cain's tweet came in response to another post shared from O'Rourke's account on Thursday that quoted the Ar-15 remark he made during the debate in Houston.

O'Rourke responded by calling Cain's tweet a "death threat."

"Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15-and neither should anyone else," O'Rourke added.

Read more here.

 

FACEBOOK'S NEW TOOL: Facebook is expanding a feature that it says will help users in areas with low densities of local news coverage better see articles that are relevant to their areas.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Facebook's head of news partnerships Campbell Brown said that the "Today In" service, which aggregates local news articles for users that opt in to the feature, will be expanded from its original launch in about 400 cities to include more than 6,000.

The service, launched early last year, receives news from about 1,200 local news outlets every day and aggregates them by area for users of the feature. The company says the feature is designed to help publishers struggling to drive traffic to hyperlocal sites.

"There is no silver bullet," Brown told the AP. "We really want to help publishers address challenges in local markets."

Use of the feature is reportedly more effective than simply having stories pop up in a user's regular news feed, according to Facebook, which says that tests of the feature show that the service is effective in increasing traffic for local outlets.

Read more here.

 

Lighter click: Daydreaming.

 

An op-ed to chew on: When you fail to soft-land on the moon, try, try again.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Gig economy in crosshairs after decade of freewheeling growth. (Wall Street Journal)

How tech firms like Uber hide behind the 'platform defense.' (Wired)

Amazon-owned Whole Foods is cutting medical benefits for part-time workers. (The Verge)

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